My new motto is finish what you start. So I'm going to bloody well finish this! Next chapter will be the last.
Whatever Herrick had planned would remain a mystery as all eyes turned to the ghost in grey and Herrick's grin wavered into an unsettled sneer.
The air crackled as Annie's form morphed and faded in and out of sight until finally grounding in place. She stood very still, eyes watching only Herrick. The temperature dropped noticeably and George shivered, a breeze prickling his skin.
Annie looked different, fragmented around the edges, and more ghostly than George had ever seen her. In fact, he'd only seen her like this once – when she saved them from Kemp only months before.
Everything about her felt wrong and this chilled George to the very core of his being.
She circled Herrick, watched him with hard, unblinking eyes. Now she looked truly dead, no longer radiating that natural joy George longed for.
George wanted to shout something, anything, but he felt helpless and scared, his body frozen in place.
He could hear Mitchell begging her to leave, pleading, but she wasn't listening – didn't even offer a glance.
They were watching from afar as Herrick laughed with delight, a sound which stopped Annie from her pacing.
A cruel smile curled her lips, unnatural on her features, and slowly her hand pushed forward, straight into Herrick's chest, passing through skin, muscle and bone as though made of water.
Herrick choked in surprise and twitched in pain, his laugh quickly silenced. Do you feel that? Her voice low as she squeezed her hand, tightening her palm around the heart muscle, using enough pressure to make an impact but still keep him conscious.
Is that the best you can do? Herrick gurgled, never removing his eyes from the violet ones piercing his with such resolution.
George remained frozen in place, unable to stop the scene playing before him. He jumped as Mitchell hit the cage wall, begging Annie to stop, that this wasn't her. It was a fruitless bid and still she paid no attention to his cries.
No, but it's a start. Behind Herrick a door appeared – wet, rusting steel; black with no handle. Slowly the door swung open with a screech, revealing an endless pitch black abyss. The temperature dropped further and a low hum bubbled from the darkness gradually growing louder and louder until screams bled out into the room – horrible cries of pain and anger. The noise was consuming, unpleasant and George staggered back, palms clammy and warm.
Her voice was commanding, rising above the screams. They've waited a long time. You don't get to escape this. The darkness expanded, black vines weaved around Herrick's limbs and torso, combining with the fabric of his clothes.
Now Herrick looked fearful – the façade crumbling as his usual clam wavered slightly and yet his eyes sparkled with curiosity. I'm impressed – I didn't think you had it in you. I underestimated you. For the final time, his eyes turned coal black and the vampire smiled, ready for an end.
You did. And without a second thought Annie pushed Herrick through the door - the screams reaching a climax and silencing when the looming darkness swallowed Herrick's contorted body.
George locked his gaze on the black nothingness, tired and cold. His heavy breaths echoed the room and he could hear the frantic beat of his pounding heart. It was the door wasn't it? He could feel it – invisible arms drawing energy from him, somehow seeking out the only source of life in the vicinity.
He wanted it to stop. And then the black morphed to grey and white and George realised Annie was standing in his view, blocking his curious and exhausted eyes.
She gripped the open door frame and finally turned to face her friends – violet eyes dissolving back to their normal colour.
George would have been relieved to see their Annie again, not the poltergeist, but he could see it in her eyes – what she planned to do – and his voice finally returned no, no, no.
Beside him, Mitchell stopped hitting the cage walls, fingers now clasping the wire meshing. Annie, please, don't.
Finally she faced Mitchell, lips parting wanting to say something, but nothing comes out. No words are spoken – they don't need words. Instead they watch one another with an intensity that makes George uncomfortable, fully aware he's intruding on a private moment. He shifts his gaze from the couple and waits for their trance to break.
When Annie does speak, her voice is directed on him and suddenly looks up.
I have to do this. She pauses and her face crumbling, exposing the Annie he knows. Nina's going to be ok George. She's a fighter. He asks her about the baby and solemnly she shakes her head, it's too early to know yet. I'm sorry. Those two words expressed everything he needed to hear – his loss and her goodbye.
She smiles sadly and then she's gone, through the door and George is crying – for the baby; for Nina; for Annie.
He felt numb, his entire being was shattered – nothing felt quite real. It wasn't supposed to happen like this.
That's when he spots it through teary eyes. A police issued gun perfectly positioned in the corner of the cage. Part of Herrick's master plan George guessed. Clumsily he picks the gun up and tests the weight against his palm, tracing his finger against the metal. It's cold, heavy and he realises he's never held a gun before. Everything he knows about guns is from films and Midsummer Murder. The safety was off.
George jumps – a loud banging interrupting his dreamlike daze. He watches Mitchell – completely oblivious to the gun – attempt repeatedly to kick the cage door open, to no avail, moving to the hinges instead, swearing between breaths. He stops, leaning his hand against the wall, head down and George can tell he's crying.
There's a recognizable click and Mitchell freezes, turning round. His face soaked with fresh tears and droplets of blood on his lip where George had previously hit him.
George aims the gun at Mitchell's chest, hand shaky but holding strong. He isn't even sure if a bullet could kill a vampire and it wasn't the time to update his supernatural knowledge.
Mitchell appears momentarily shocked and runs gloved hands over his face to remove drying tears. When his hands drop casually to his side, he reveals an expression that's cold and ugly.
He's seen that look before. George is fully aware of what Mitchell is doing – or trying to do. Trying to intimidate, anger him, scare him by being the damned creature he hated. Mitchell was going to push his buttons – make George pull the trigger. He actually had the audacity to be his alter ego.
Mitchell laughed and stepped forward, testing George's courage. His eyes darkened and voice lowered. You're hands shaking George. What are you going to do? Are you going to shoot me? Go on. All those things I've done and more will follow if you don't. Mind you, I don't think you have the balls for that. Never did. You're a coward. Come on, you filthy dog.
George swallowed hard. Don't call me that.
This was Mitchell and everything he touched became destructive. He wasn't sure he could make any excuses for him anymore. It was…tiring.
Mitchell's shoulders sagged and he pleaded desperately, no longer playing a monster, but a broken man. Do it. Please, George, I can't do it anymore. End it and you'll finally be free. Let me go. He took another step closer so the tip of the gun now pressed against his sternum.
His friend was crumbling before him and it was heartbreaking. George found his finger tightening down on the trigger.
No. This wasn't how it should end, George wasn't like them.
He twisted his arm and pointed the gun to the padlock on the cage door and pulled the trigger. To his surprise nothing happened. He tried again and again to no effect. The gun was empty – he scoffs – realising Herrick had played them all along; part of his sick, twisted game.
He threw the gun to the ground. Now it was his turn to scream and kick the bloody door in frustration and anger. Thankfully Mitchell let him be – silently slumping to a sitting position on the floor.
Once his energy was spent, George found no comfort in the silence, keeping his distance from Mitchell as he mulled over the passing events. He'd lost one best friend and the other one wanted to die – it wasn't looking to great.
He didn't know how much time passed by when he heard shuffling from outside and Tom suddenly appeared, running up to the cage. After several attempts, Tom unlocked the door, eyeing Mitchell suspiciously. He didn't say much, something was playing on his mind, something he tried to hide.
George only nodded, not about to ask what was wrong, and pushed past Tom. He had to get away from here, from Mitchell. He had to see Nina.
Tom tilted his head in Mitchell's direction. What about him?
Now outside the cage, George stopped, keeping his back to Mitchell. He couldn't look at him. He was done. Don't come back to the house Mitchell. I can't take responsibility for you anymore.
Without turning back, he walked away.
Tom looked down at Mitchell before joining George, leaving Mitchell alone on the cold ground.